Wouldn’t You Like to Know. . . Ally Carter
By Stacey Hayman
Our current author lives her life peeking out from behind a veil of mystery. Residing in an undisclosed location within the great state of Oklahoma, this is one lady who knows the value of discretion. Unearthing the knowledge that her mother was a teacher, her father a rancher, and that Ally grew up on a working farm with an older sister feels like quite the coup! Bailing hay and tending cows may not seem like an obvious start for an author, but maybe it was all the time spent with her four-footed friends that allowed the ideas for her many books to begin. Already a successfully published adult novel author, Ally entered the world of writing for teens with I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You. It was a fairly notable entrance when the manuscript was purchased based on the first two chapters and an outline alone. Now with two beloved, strong teen girl characters leading her cherished Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, readers of all ages will have more fabulous stories to look forward to enjoying. The biggest challenge facing fans? Learning more about the author! Ally herself claims that “her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever. She’d tell you more, but . . . well . . . you know . . . ” Hopefully this interview will help provide a little insight, without dangerously revealing too much!
SH: When I was a teenager, people would describe me as a: (jock, band geek, popular, goth, other, none?)
AC: Ag (as in agriculture) dork.
SH: The best/worst thing that happened to you in high school was?
AC: Best: learning public speaking. Worst: having to suffer through high school.
SH: Favorite food growing up? Favorite food now? Favorite food to snack on while writing?
AC: Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy. Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy. Probably popcorn.
SH: Favorite television show growing up? And now?
AC: [Growing up] Designing Women. [And now]Vampire Diaries, White Collar, or the late, great Friday Night Lights.
SH: Favorite book? And now?
AC: To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird.
SH: What three things do you think would catch a person’s attention if they walked into your workspace, your kitchen, or your family room?
AC: I have huge whiteboards in my office where I plot out each of my books. They are always a huge conversation starter, probably because unless you know the full story they make me look like a serial killer.
SH: If you could handpick the ideal reader for your book, how would you describe that reader?
AC: Smart. Young at heart. Moxie.
SH: If you weren’t a writer, what job would you have? Would that be your dream job?
AC: I would probably still be doing something in the field where I earned my degree, agricultural economics. I pretty much have my dream job.
SH: Is there a book, besides your own of course, that you think everyone should be reading?
AC: If you like YA and you haven’t read The Hunger Games or the Percy Jackson books yet then you seriously need to get on that.
SH: When you’re done writing for the day, or taking a little “me” time, do you have a hobby or special treat you like to indulge in?
AC: I bake and work out (which, if I’m lucky, cancel each other out), watch entirely too much TV, and hopefully spend time with my family.
SH: Which book (or series) would you want to be made into a movie or television show? Who would you want to cast for the main character(s)?
AC: Every author dreams of seeing their characters on the large or small screens. I’m no different. Heist Society is currently under option at Warner Brothers, and I’d dearly love to see something get made starring Emma Stone. Or Emma Watson. Or any number of awesome actresses not named Emma.
SH: It’s your birthday, what is your ideal day like?
AC: I’d sleep late, be surrounded by friends and family. And cake. There would most definitely be cake.
SH: What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?
AC: Friendly. Nice. Creative.
SH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, who you find fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?
AC: I would love to have dinner with authors I admire. I think I could pick the minds of Harper Lee, SE Hinton, Jane Austen, JK Rowling and Rick Riordan for hours. I would probably make my mother’s barbecue chicken. It’s delicious.
SH: What one thing makes you feel happiest? What scares you?
AC: Spending time with my parents and nieces. I’m worried about the environment, the economy, and all of the bad news that surrounds us on a daily basis.
SH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?
AC: Don’t get it right; get it written.
SH: If you were able to choose a superpower, what would it be and why?
AC: Time travel. Or teleportation. Either one would make my job much, much easier.
SH: You get three wishes, what are they? (Yes, you can wish for more wishes but are you *that* person?)
AC: I would probably let my parents have a wish—they raised me. They earned it. I would take King Solomon’s advice and wish for wisdom. And, finally, I think I’d do something along the lines of world peace. Just because people have been talking about it for years and no one really seems to be making any progress.
SH: When asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you say? Were you telling the truth?
AC: I honestly don’t remember what I might have said, but what I really wanted was to be a writer. It wasn’t until I had an agent and a book deal that I really started saying that dream out loud.
SH: Any advice for teens, something you wish you had known? Or wish you had done? Or wish you had not done? And why. (Or maybe: Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten, at any age?
AC: Now matters. What you do now. What you say now. Choices you make NOW impact the path you’ll be on for the rest of your life. And those choices can be anything from grades to friends, habits to hobbies. Have some fun, enjoy your youth, and remember that this is your future. Right now.
SH: Is there one moment in your life you’d love to live again? To either change it or to enjoy?
AC: I’d love to re-live college—both the good parts and the not-so-good parts. Those were really good, free, and exciting times.
SH: The first book in this series was the first book I reviewed for VOYA! So in addition to being a refreshingly original story, this particular book has a special appeal for this reader. Where did the idea for the series come from? Was it an easy sell to the publisher?
AC: The idea came in a flash while I was doing something it seems I’m always doing—watching TV. My literary agent, Kristin Nelson, had emailed her clients one Wednesday afternoon with her (dead-on) hunch that the YA market was getting ready to be very, very hot. She asked if any of us had been thinking of doing a YA project. That night I was watching ALIAS and the idea of a boarding school for spies hit me like a bolt of lightning. I sent the pitch to Kristin and she immediately loved it. We sent the proposal to editors about a month later and within a week we had offers. It all happened very quickly once the ball started rolling.
SH: Cammie, Bex, and Macey have their own unique, outstanding spy-in-training skills. Do you get an equal number of questions about each of them from readers? Secretly, which girl would you want to be?
AC: Each reader seems to identify with a different girl. I am probably the most like Cammie, but if I could pick, I think I’d love to try out life in Bex or Macey’s shoes for a while.
SH: Having a sense of how you want the series to end, how do you decide when to drop a red herring or a real clue to keep readers guessing? Do you ever confuse yourself as to which cover story is closest to the truth?
AC: No. Not really. I think it’s a natural for Cammie and the other characters to have doubts about the people in their lives—who they can trust; what they should do. I want to show that. But ultimately I always felt very comfortable with the truth and always tried to stay close to the center of the story.
SH: Do you think you’d ever write a Blackthorne Boys series and tell the stories from Zach’s viewpoint?
AC: I would never say never. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do think the world of Blackthorne is a fascinating aspect of the Gallagher Girls series and one that we haven’t yet fully explored. Would I like to do it? Absolutely. But the story and characters and timing will have to be exactly right.
SH: If the series does end with the sixth book, will you give readers a definite ending, tie up all the loose ends, and maybe give fans a peek into Cammie’s future? Or are you considering more of a cliffhanger ending? Will Josh, the first crush from the first book, be there at the end?
AC: I haven’t written book six yet, so it’s impossible to say definitively what will or won’t happen, but I do feel very strongly about wrapping up the central questions that have followed Cam and Co. throughout the series. Will some readers still have questions? I’m sure they will. People seem to find questions in everything from what a character wore in a scene to what someone meant by a tiny little line. So big questions: absolutely. Every possible question: I doubt that is even possible.
SH: If you could take back anything in the series, would you? What would it be?
AC: Oh, I’m certain that if given the chance I’d rewrite every page of every book. That’s the nature of the beast. I’m never fully satisfied. But in the end I know that the readers out there wouldn’t like that. They are happy with the books as they stand now, and I should do my best to feel that way as well.
SH: Katarina Bishop has an eccentric, extended family but her childhood seems less secure than Cammie’s smaller circle of trustworthy adults. Do you think one is luckier than the other? Which one is most likely to get a better night’s rest?
AC: I don’t think either is especially lucky or unlucky. Ultimately, as long as you have at least one adult who loves you and cares for you, you’ve got a shot. And by those standards, both Kat and Cammie have a lot of blessings.
SH: Where are you getting your ideas for what might make a good target for Kat and her family? If you could hire Kat, what “job” would you give her?
AC: I have a number of possible heists in mind for Kat. Personally, I’d love to have her help me see behind the scenes at some of the world’s most private places—Buckingham Palace, the White House, George Clooney’s place . . . Just a peek would be enough for me to steal.
SH: As Kat and Cammie are roughly the same age, do you think they’ll ever meet? Would they be opposite sides, or maybe the same side?
AC: I get this question all the time, so obviously it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought. I really doubt that I will ever do a cross-over of any kind. Certainly not a novel. Maybe a short story or something for a good cause, but overall that isn’t something I’m necessarily drawn to. Ultimately, both girls have a lot on their individual plates as it is.
SH: Has anyone suggested a graphic novel adaption for this series? Would you be interested? (Or maybe the Gallagher Girls?)
AC: That is something that I’ve toyed with from time to time, but right now the novels themselves are the top priority by far. Maybe someday. But that’s a pretty big maybe.
SH: What are you working on now?
AC: Heist Society 3. It currently has neither a title nor a release date.
SH: Have you hidden friends or family in your stories? Has anyone ever asked to be included?
AC: As fully formed characters? No. But I frequently sneak in names of family members for very minor characters or just names to mention. It’s become quite a competition among my family to see who’ll be mentioned next.
SH: If you could design a super secret gadget, what would it do? Would it be used by forces of good or to create chaos?
AC: In the second Gallagher Girls book, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, the characters get a “truth ring” that is sort of like a mood ring, but it tells you when someone else is lying. I wouldn’t mind having one of those from time to time.
SH: Having been published as an author for adults, what made you want to write for teens? Was it harder, easier, or equally challenging? If you could only write for one audience from now on, which group would you pick?
AC: Writing young adult novels came far more naturally for me because I have a more natural YA voice and sensibility. It is very much my home genre, and that’s where I intend to remain for the foreseeable future.
SH: What’s the best, or most surprising, question you’ve ever been asked?
AC: Honestly there’s not one surprising or great question that jumps out at me. All of my readers are very smart and just plain adorable. They ask a lot of great questions. The key observation from me is just that teens ask far better questions than adults. Always.
Books by Ally Carter
I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You. Hyperion, 2006. 288p. $15.99. 978-1423100034. VOYA October 2006. 4Q 5P M J S
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy. Hyperion, 2007. 240p. $16.99. 978-1423100058. VOYA April 2008. 5Q 4P M J S
Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover. Hyperion, 2009. 272p. $16.99. 978-1423116387. VOYA October 2009. 5Q 4P M J S
Only the Good Spy Young. Hyperion, 2010. 272p. $16.99. 978-1423128205.
Heist Society. Hyperion, 2010. 287 p. $16.99. 978-1423116394. VOYA April 2010. 3Q 4P M J
Uncommon Criminals. Hyperion, 2011. 298 p. $16.99. 978-1423147954.
The Official Site of Ally Carter. http://allycarter.com/
The Nelson Agency. http://www.nelsonagency.com/clients.html
Disney Hyperion. http://disney.go.com/official-sites/gallagher-girls/ally-carter-bio